The Legislative Report

Pete Downs

By Pete Downs, CRPOA Director, Member of the Legislative Committee a Volunteer In Policing at the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office.

This month I will discuss the committee structure and some of the nuances.


        Measures considered by the Legislature fall into six classes. These are bills, constitutional amendments, joint resolutions, concurrent resolutions, house resolutions, and Rules Committee resolutions. There are differences among these classes in their requirements for passage and the weight of authority they carry.

    Each measure is designated as originating either in the Assembly or the Senate and is assigned a number. The first of any given type of measure to be introduced in a session is numbered “1” and the numbering continues sequentially throughout the two-year session. At the beginning of a new session, the numbering starts over. For example, the tenth Senate bill introduced in a session is labeled SB 10, and the third Assembly Constitutional Amendment is ACA 3.


     In California, most laws are enacted, repealed, or amended through bills, which are proposals to add new laws or change or repealed existing laws.

    To become law, a bill must be passed in both houses by at least a simple majority. The Budget Bill and spending bills related to the budget require a simple majority. Other bills that contain a General Fund appropriation require a two‑thirds vote, unless the appropriation is for education, in which case a simple majority is required. In addition, any bill which contains an urgency clause (i.e., a provision that makes the bill effective immediately following signature by the Governor, rather than on January 1, as is normally the case) requires a two-thirds vote. Bills that increase taxes require a two-thirds vote.

    After passage by both houses of the Legislature, the bill is sent to the Governor, who may either sign or veto the bill within a specified period of time (either 12 days or 30 days depending on what time of the year it is sent to him/her). If the Governor fails to act on a bill sent to him/her within the prescribed period, the measure becomes law without his/her signature. (For more specifics regarding deadlines for gubernatorial actions on bills, refer to Section 10 of Article IV of the State Constitution.)


   A constitutional amendment can be initiated by the Legislature if it passes both houses by a two-thirds vote. A proposed constitutional amendment is not sent to the Governor for signature, but becomes part of the constitution only if the electorate approves it in a general election. The Governor may call a special election to consider a proposed constitutional amendment sooner.

    When the Legislature adopts a proposed constitutional amendment, it may also adopt a companion bill, which would take effect only if the constitutional amendment is passed by the people. These companion measures generally contain detailed statutory provisions to implement the constitutional amendment.

    The constitution can also be amended through the initiative process. The signatures of the requisite number of voters on a petition causes the Secretary of State to place the petition on the ballot. No action by the Legislature is needed in this process, and the Legislature cannot prevent it from occurring.


   Joint resolutions are initiated when the Legislature wants to comment to Congress and/or the President on a federal matter of concern to the State. These resolutions require a majority vote in both houses. Joint resolutions neither need the signature of the Governor nor have the force of law. They take effect upon their being filed with the Secretary of State.


   Concurrent Resolutions address state matters that are of concern to both houses. They are often used to adopt the joint rules, create joint committees, request studies, express legislative intent and express the Legislature’s congratulations to organizations, persons, or other states. Concurrent Resolutions need a majority in each house to pass. These measures are not sent to the Governor for approval and take effect upon their being filed with the Secretary of State.


     “House” (i.e., Assembly) and Senate resolutions are acted on in one house only. These resolutions are usually congratulatory, but they are also used to adopt and amend the house rules and create house interim committees. These measures are not sent to the Governor for approval.


     The Rules Committee in each house also takes action by way of the resolution. A majority vote of the committee is required to pass these measures, which usually deal with internal operations.

We thank, Pete Downs for this Legislative Committee update. They plan to have more information for us Monthly.